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Transforming Healthcare

What One of Intermountain's Highest Rated Doctors Has to Say About Patient Experience

By Courtney Kirkham

Oct 4, 2017


There isn’t one golden solution that, if employed, will transform patient experience for the better. Instead, it’s many small but impactful changes that clinicians can make to their practice, with lasting results. 

Doug Newbold, MD, a family medicine doctor at Intermountain’s Taylorsville Clinic, shared his thoughts on what matters most to him and his patients in a conversation with Mark Briesacher, MD, Chief Physician Executive and President of Intermountain Medical Group. It’s important to note that Dr. Newbold’s insights come with some authority—Dr. Newbold is one of Intermountain’s highest rated doctors in patient satisfaction and consistently performs in the top decile nationwide for patient experience in family medicine. 

Inviting laughter into the care setting

“Laughter is a very potent healer,” shared Dr. Newbold. This is why he’s strategically placed jokes and joke books all over his clinic: above the scale, in the exam room, and just about anywhere else a good laugh might be needed. “It’s nice to walk into a room and have your patient looking in a joke book—smiling and laughing—instead of focusing on their area of pain.” Patients have caught on to the vision and often bring in their own jokes to try on the clinic staff. 

Jokes not only promote laughter, but help build a connection between Dr. Newbold and his patients. This connection, care, and concern is felt by patients and can influence clinical outcomes. Dr. Newbold shared that he once had a patient who struggled to manage his diabetes; few things seemed to help this patient stay on track. During one visit, Dr. Newbold found that the patient’s average glucose level was within a much better range. He asked the patient what had changed since his last visit. The patient expressed that during his last visit he saw the concern in Dr. Newbold’s eyes. He recognized that his doctor really cared for him and his health, and this drove him to change his behavior and, in turn, better manage his diabetes.

Creating loyalty through access

Ever since his first job post-residency, Dr. Newbold prioritized access for his patients. He built his practice first as a KidsCare physician, a clinic model that has extended hours so parents can get their kids seen by a clinician when they really need it. Over time, he realized how popular the after 5 p.m. appointment times were so he implemented extended clinics hours on Wednesdays and early morning appointment times on Fridays to accommodate his patients’ unique needs.

The key is to have options that work for your patients. “Access builds a lot of loyalty between you and your patients,” said Dr. Newbold. “That loyalty is built because you are providing something that helps them realize how much you care about them.” At the same time improved access for patients has also improved his work/life balance. He pairs extended hours on Wednesdays with his day off on Thursdays and his early morning hours on Friday with his last appointment of the day ending at 3 p.m. “Access isn’t about working harder and longer,” said Dr. Briesacher. “It’s about how we can work smarter together to provide great access for our patients and also take care of ourselves and our families.” It’s about providing balance for both. 

Embracing a team-based approach

The practice of medicine is evolving from a doctor-patient relationship to a team-based approach that includes a variety of medical professionals and the patient. This shift is ever more important as generations age and new competition enters the market offering pop-up style healthcare. For physician leaders like Dr. Newbold and Dr. Briesacher, the question of how to stay operational and strategic during these shifts is essential.

Intermountain plans to create a Medicare Accountable Care Organization (ACO) called Intermountain Accountable Care, LLC in 2018 that will address the needs of aging populations in our community with team-based medicine. Dr. Newbold noted that it will be a process to determine the best way to support clinicians and patients across the board: “We are going to focus on figuring out how a team approach can be applied to all different kinds of models—TeleHealth, Mental Health, Pharmacy, etc.” Dr. Briesacher agreed: “It’s about finding the right fit for this new way of taking care of people…that then becomes a winning model for everybody. When we win it’s our patients winning.”